All That and a Bag of Mail: Tennessee Dumpster Fire Edition

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Only at Tennessee could a athletic director refuse to hire Bruce Pearl because of past NCAA issues and then hire a brand new coach with worse past NCAA issues who would be fired less than a year after the hire for new NCAA issues. 

I mean, you can’t even make this level of incompetence up. 

Ever since Tennessee fired Phil Fulmer the entire athletic department has been a total dumpster fire. I’ve been nervous about Dave Hart for years. Let’s be deadly honest here — you can’t trust a man over sixty years old with bangs. 

So let me reiterate this for the millionth time — Tennessee should go hire Bruce Pearl. Yes, I know he’s at Auburn and I know he has a big buyout, but I don’t care. Neither should you. With the SEC Network money rolling in, the $5 million buyout, which drops to $4 million in mid-April, isn’t a hindrance. Plus, this is a business. Pearl would immediately fill up Thompson-Boling again, the increased ticket sales would pay for the buyout within two years. And, again, let me reiterate — the SEC Network is a juggernaut printing off millions of dollars in extra revenue that hasn’t been budgeted for yet. In one move you could fix Tennessee basketball for the next decade.

Remember, the rule that Bruce Pearl got suspended 3.25 years for violating ISN’T EVEN A RULES VIOLATION ANYMORE.

And I don’t care about the lying. Everybody lies in college basketball. You think Kentucky and John Calipari aren’t paying all their players on this year’s team? Come on, don’t be naive. 

The solution to all of Vol basketball’s problems is just too easy, go hire Bruce Pearl. 

As for other options, I’ve been on the hire Gregg Marshall train before — all the way back when Mike Hamilton hired Cuonzo, in fact — but it’s clear that Tennessee insists on making a bargain basement hire. So we’ll let Alabama go out there and deploy the Clay Travis dumptruck of cash theory while Tennessee tries to hire a new coach with some spare Pilot gas cards and a couple of Calhoun’s gift certificates.

At some point you’d think someone in UT athletics would have realized that they waste a shit ton of money on things that don’t matter that much — weight room juice bars, for instance — and try and hire coaches on the cheap. Hell, Butch Jones fell into Dave Hart’s lap because he swung and missed on Mike Gundy and Charlie Strong. But they still won’t spend money on proven head coaching winners.    

So if Dave Hart won’t hire Pearl and won’t spend big money — which is probably the case because Dave Hart is sixty years old and still has bangs — say to hell with it and go hire Rick Byrd at Belmont. The guy’s a UT grad, he’s a hell of a coach, and he could provide much needed stability at Tennessee over the next 7-8 years. Sure, he’s 61 years old, but wouldn’t it be a relief for Tennessee athletics to have a coach who is good enough to get really old while coaching? At this point, I’ll take death as a downside risk. It’s better than sucking.  

Anyway, on to the mailbag. 

Jimmy writes:

“With the news of Donnie Tyndall being fired at Tennessee, the predictable and interminable dross of ‘Bring back Bruce’ shouts have commenced. I’m a huge Bruce Pearl fan, but I also like to think I live in reality.

My question is this: what percentage of Tennessee fans would let Bruce sleep with their wives, mortgage their homes, etc. (the way the 85% would for Saban) if it would bring Bruce back? Yes, he’s a basketball coach, but I think it’s a fair question given the fervor and number of those clamoring for his return.

Follow up question, if Alabama’s fan makeup is roughly 85/15, what is Tennessee’s?”

I’d say a solid quarter of Tennessee fans would be okay with giving up their wives to Pearl upon his return. Basketball matters in Tennessee, not as much as football, but a ton. I’ve written this before, but I don’t buy into the basketball/football distinction any more. Top schools have plenty of money to be good at both.  

Tennessee is close to the 85/15 Bama fan breakdown, but not that close because we also have the Titans and the Grizzlies and the Preds in this state to dilute the stupid fan factor. Plus, and this is painful to write, but Alabama is a better school than Tennessee is. So it’s harder to get into. I’d say that 25 percent of Tennessee’s fan base is capable of actually getting into Tennessee. So Tennessee’s got the 75/25 working. 

Mitch writes:


In response to you saying on Twitter that Tennessee’s the worst run athletic department: Let me start off by saying I went to Tennessee from 2009-13 after growing up in metro Detroit. From the time I decided to go there until the time I graduated we’ve been through two athletic directors (Hamilton and Hart), six football coaches (Fulmer, Kiffin, Kippy Brown, Dooley, Chaney and Butch), and three basketball coaches (Pearl, Martin, and Tyndall). I applied and was accepted to Michigan State, Alabama, Indiana, and Tennessee and chose Tennessee because of their athletics.

How badly did I fuck up? Athletics wise if I went to Alabama I would have been there for multiple national championships and if I went to Michigan State I would have been there for multiple bowl wins and sweet sixteens. Academics wise Indiana and Michigan State have better business programs than Tennessee. That being said I was hired straight out of college and work for a very large well known company, but I mean Jesus Christ I don’t think any school can compare to the four year stretch that I endured during my time at Tennessee. As a senior in high school in suburban Detroit in 2008-2009, from a gay Muslim to a Jew which route would you have gone for college?”

Nine people have coached Tennessee football or basketball on a full-time or interim basis since 2008.


I can’t believe I’m writing this, but you should have gone to Alabama.  

Jared writes:

“After listening to someone tell you that you need your face smashed in yesterday for calling UK and WVU fans stupid, I woke up this morning and began to follow the dumpster fire that is the firing of UT Coach Donnie Tyndall as it started to unfold on twitter. My question is, as it relates to the dumbest fan base in the country, what University/Organization has the dumbest Athletic Department/Administration(President,Chancellor) or General Manager/Owner?

I would dare say that UT had to be in this list. Since AD Mike Hamilton was hired it has been a train wreck. The type of train wreck you can’t look away from, no matter how bad it is or gets. Hamilton gets fired and his replacement is not heading down the right track with fans. What does UT do to correct these issues and who do they get to fix it? Who replaces Tyndall and the soon to be fired Dave Hart?”

I feel safe in saying this — UT is the worst run major athletic department in the country and the Tennessee Titans are the worst run pro sports franchise. 

This is not hyperbole. 

This is real life. 

We’re all fucked in this state right now.

In terms of major athletic departments, Rutgers and Colorado are also pretty incompetent.  

Ben writes:

“Clay, have you ever considered that maybe “your” the reason that Tennessee athletics — and the Titans — suck? It’s like a seesaw, you keep rising and the Vols and Titans keep sinking.

Can Outkick go ahead and fire you?” 

I actually have thought about this. When I was poor Tennessee was pretty good at athletics. Then I got rich and during this climb they sucked. 

But I quit doing Nashville radio in September and things have continued to get worse. So I’m fairly certain I’m not to blame. 

Having said that, Outkick is meeting this morning to discuss firing that asshole Clay Travis. 

Stay tuned. 

Adam writes:

“As a East Tennessee diasporan gay muslim who is about your age, I have appreciated your column keeping me informed on SEC and Volunteer athletics all these years.

My questions are these: has any athletic department ever administered the death penalty unto itself? Should Tennessee become a trendsetter for once and commit athletic department suicide?”

I don’t think the Tennessee athletic department could commit suicide. 

It would try, fail, and instead find itself in a permanent vegetative state.

Mike writes:

“As an Alabama Graduate living in Knoxville nothing is more satisfying than watching the stooges that manage the UT athletic department. My wife, an Auburn fan who knows very little about sports, said to me this morning “You know, UT hasn’t been good since they fired that fat coach, what was his name?” It feels good to see UT struggle for so long. My question: When Alabama hires Marshall from Wichita State, will there be a stronger athletic program in the country? Doubt it, Roll TIde!”

Even Alabama’s 85% are looking at Tennessee’s athletic department and thinking, “Damn, those losers need to get their shit together.”

John R. 

“Kentucky looked like a pro team last night and we know they are getting some form of compensation before they actually go pro. How do you think players are getting compensated these days? Is cash the preferred method of payment because it is not traceable? With the rise of bitcoin, a type of digital cash that is also untraceable and anonymous, do you think any athletes are taking payment in digital currencies? Athletes could set up bitcoin wallets and be sent money without the NCAA being able to trace where it came from. Boosters in Lexington may not be that technically savvy, but there have got to be people seeing that potential with digital currencies becoming more mainstream. What do you think?”

Kentucky is paying its players like Kentucky has always paid its players, with cash. 

As for bitcoin payments, it’s too complicated. Only Stanford could pull this off and they don’t have to pay players. Although I would love to see Alabama’s players trying to buy suits from T-Towns Menswear with their bitcoin payments.  

Cyndi writes:

“I just wanted to let you know that you are the reason I listen to sports radio.. I realize you are no longer on 3HL… However, my husband would always come home with stories you shared so I figured I would give it a try from 5-6pm on my way home from work.

The first time I listened you were discussing how much higher hockey ratings would be if the actual mascot (live animal) were allowed to play on the ice and which team would have the advantage if this ever happened. I was hooked… The first time sports radio actually entertained me!

Of course it was followed months later by the hour spent on passing kidney stones and long trips in the car with kids who have small bladders and what in the world to do with the cup once they pee in it!

When it comes to Sports Talk Radio or articles on Outkick the Coverage you are, Mr. Travis, the best of the best!

Thank you for the many hours of entertainment you have brought me since I first began listening to you and reading your articles a little over 2 years ago!”

Aw, so sweet. 

I know I’ve been saying it for a while and you guys keep asking me on Twitter, Facebook and email, but radio news will be coming soon. We’re still trying to work out how much TV I’m going to be doing and how to balance that with my radio obligations. I’m hopeful it will be resolved very soon.  

I miss daily radio and can’t wait to be back on the air. 

By the way, I still think if the NHL put live animal mascots on the ice it would make for much better television ratings. 

Written by Clay Travis

Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021.

One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines.

Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide.

Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports.

Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.